Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is a review that captures the intensity of teenage love.
As TikTok becomes more popular with its fast-paced, short videos, it seems that Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs the World was ahead of its time. Based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s six-part graphic novel series, the film follows a Toronto bassist who finds himself in a romantic relationship with someone out of his league. The movie is a live-action representation of a cartoon, filled with impressive visuals and clever banter. The concept is both playful and ingenious: what if hipster musicians got into exaggerated battles based on video games and Japanese animation?
Despite not being a huge success upon its release in 2010, Wright’s lively film must have been a fun experience for the actors involved. The entire cast, which includes Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Brie Larson, and others, have returned after 13 years to lend their voices to their characters in the new animated series, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. This series, overseen by O’Malley and produced by Tokyo anime studio Science Saru, stays true to the manga-inspired artwork of his graphic novels with its bold lines and expressive eyes. However, initially, the show follows a similar storyline to the film, with Wright receiving an executive producer credit.
Scott Pilgrim, voiced by Cera, is a 23-year-old who lacks direction and plays bass in a rough garage-rock band. His bandmates are mocking him for dating a 17-year-old, even though their relationship is innocent but not wise. Things become complicated when Scott meets his ideal girl in his dreams, who happens to be the same age as him. This girl is Ramona Flowers, an inline skating courier who uses Scott’s unconscious mind as a shortcut to different dimensions, hinting that there may be untapped potential in his mind.
Following a slightly uncomfortable beginning, the two of them clicked. However, Ramona’s seven envious past partners, led by a dubious media tycoon named Gideon (played by Jason Schwartzman), are determined to ruin her newfound happiness. Dealing with a significant other’s romantic past can be an uncomfortable aspect of any new relationship, but in this case, it turns into a physical battle. Scott is forced to fight against Ramona’s former lovers one by one, resembling a tournament structure reminiscent of the popular game Street Fighter II or the final half hour of The Karate Kid.
O’Malley and co-writer BenDavid Grabinski have chosen not to succumb to the temptation of utilizing the additional episodes to adapt more of the source material. Instead, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off takes a different path and moves forward at a different pace. The producers have asked to avoid revealing any spoilers about the specific point of divergence from the original, but it occurs at a logical stopping point and enhances the overall story.
The latest installment is more of a revamped version rather than a complete restart. The updated approach transforms the show into a lively group dynamic rather than just following one hero’s journey (although Scott is endearing, he can be a bit self-absorbed). The stylish and confident Ramona takes on a more assertive role, almost becoming the lead character in a few episodes. Scott’s roommate, Wallace, who is voiced by Kieran Culkin from Succession, gets more screen time and uses it to deliver cutting and witty insults to both friends and enemies.
The antagonists, who were easily defeated in the original, are now given the opportunity for development. Lucas Lee (voiced by Chris Evans) maintains his tough, muscular appearance as a Hollywood action star, but his unpleasant actions put him in danger of being eliminated. Will he be able to change his ways? The original main villain, Gideon, who was previously only a looming figure, now faces his own set of obstacles, including a reunion with someone from his past before he became a supervillain.
In each episode, amidst the mooching and smooching, there is always a significant fight scene. One memorable moment involves a chaotic brawl that erupts in a video store, causing the characters to tumble through various movie genres, including a black-and-white noir and a classic cowboy film with a roaring train. These fights are not simply for show, but rather represent deep-seated issues and unresolved conflicts that must be addressed. The physical altercations serve as a release of pent-up emotions rather than being lethal encounters.
One might assume that knowing the movie or graphic novels is necessary for understanding Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. However, O’Malley and his team have carefully crafted a piece that does not overshadow the originals, but instead cleverly exists alongside them. Those watching for the first time will come across clever hints that lead back to Wright’s film, with the two screen adaptations complementing each other. All that is truly needed is a faint recollection of what it felt like to have a crush in your teenage or young adult years. While some sound effects may be reminiscent of old video games, the emotions are grand and dramatic, evoking the tumultuous and intense experience of falling in love during that time of life. It’s a thrilling ride.